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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


October 5, 2002 - Issue 71


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Technical Education Center Students Build House for Elderly Navajo Woman

by Carol Cohea/Staff writer Farmington Daily Times
credits: Farmington High School junior Mike Young helps his fellow Technical Education Center students layout a foundation Thursday at San Juan College. Brett Butterstein/The Daily Times
Farmington High School junior Mike Young helps his fellow Technical Education Center students layout a foundation Thursday at San Juan College. Brett Butterstein/The Daily TimesFARMINGTON, NM - Students with the area Technical Education Center building trades classes are joining efforts with business, the Navajo tribe and a Fruitland family to rebuild a house destroyed by fire.

On Thursday the students of instructor Ed Ahlm were setting batter boards, running string lines and taking measurements to square the foundation for an 800-square-foot home. The dwelling will have two bedrooms, a bath, and a combination kitchen, dining and living room.

This is the fourth house and the latest in a long list of service-learning projects in which Ahlm has engaged over the last 11 years.

"Several years ago the classes built two houses for the city of Farmington and one was built for Habitat for Humanity," he said. "Service-learning projects give more meaning to both students and the project."

Frank Dayish, senior governmental affairs representative with BHP Billiton, began putting the project together last year after talking with Emma Yazzie of Fruitland. He learned her house had burned to the ground a year earlier.

"One aspect of my job is to help the community out. Emma Yazzie, an elderly grandmother, lives near the power plant. The mine road goes by her house. As part of the community plan, we check on her," Dayish said. "One day she showed me where her house had been. In talking to her family, they said it was a two-bedroom house."

After BHP Billiton cleared the rubble to one side of the land, Dayish began working on a plan to replace the house.

"We wanted to try to help out. We're trying to replace what she had," Dayish said.

Yazzie has been living with her daughter, Shirley Begay, a BHP Billiton employee.

Initially Dayish contacted Habitat for Humanity and a foundation associated with the Air Force. But, he said, Yazzie didn't qualify for projects because her particular location was not covered by either of the groups.

When he contacted San Juan College, the Technical Education Center building trades program was "very receptive to the idea."

The idea is that BHP Billiton, the Nenahnezad Chapter of the Navajo Tribe and Emma Yazzie's family will split the cost of materials. The labor will be done by the students as their major project for the school year.

The students hope to meet Mrs. Yazzie during the course of their work.

Dion Mead, 17, a senior at Farmington High School and a second-year student in the class, said building the house is a good learning experience.

"Building a house is like putting together a puzzle. It all goes into place," he said. "Hopefully we'll get to meet her and she'll know who built it. It will be a quality-built house."

Thomas Murphy, 17, a junior at Bloomfield High School, thinks the idea of building the house for the woman is "great."

"It's nice to be helping her out. She'll get a new home," he said.

"I think it's cool that we're helping her out," said Saundre Burford, 16, a senior at Aztec High School. He said his father is a carpenter and he used to help him with work.

"I'm taking the class because I want to learn how to build a house," he said. "Houses cost a lot of money to build. It's a good feeling to work on the house and put up something for someone who will be thankful for it."

Ahlm said with no labor cost and materials only, the house should be built for under $33,000.

"We agreed we will build the house and the other entities will foot the bill for materials. There will be moving costs of the house to the site, as well as costs for the foundation, plumbing and electrical hookup," he said.

As part of the classwork, each student submitted a blueprint of the house, from which one will be chosen as the working blueprint, based on clarity and accuracy.

"I have them do the drawings so they learn to read blueprints as part of the carpentry," Ahlm said.

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